Today, we are here to commemorate those who lost their lives at sea as a result of the European border regime. 

Last Tuesday, a boat with 27 people sank near the Greek island of Chios. The Coast Guard, a NATO ship, nearby vessels and a helicopter conducted the search in rough weather, but five people – of which four were children – could only be found dead. The search for the two missing persons was called off after several days. We mourn another seven victims of Fortress Europe.

We want to commemorate the dead, the missing and forcefully disappeared in the Aegean Sea.

This shipwreck is a painful reminder that the Aegean Sea remains one of the many deadly routes to Europe. According to official numbers 1,773 people have died during their attempt to cross the Aegean Sea since 2014 [1]. But these are just the official numbers, the actual number must be much higher. Many of those who drown are never found and their names remain unknown. That makes it close to impossible for their families and friends to find out about the faith of their loved ones. They are forced to live with the excruciating uncertainty.

Sometimes people spend years searching and hoping to find news of their loved ones. A woman in the old Moria camp told us about a mother in Afghanistan, who refused to leave her village even though the Taliban were advancing. She said she could not move because otherwise her son, who had gone missing on his journey to Europe, would not be able to find her, if he returned.

The Aegean remains a dangerous and much too often a deadly route. When the Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said „No one has drowned in the Aegean this year“ on 30 September 2021, this was not only a lie but an absolute disrespect to the ones who lost their lives and their family members [2]. In 2021, 24 people on the move drowned in the Aegean in their attempt to reach Europe according to official numbers. Today, we want to commemorate all those lives lost at sea. You are not forgotten.

Three months ago, on 30 July 2021, a boat capsized at the Lamna Reef on its way from Turkey to Lesvos. A rescue operation was conducted but two women and a child were never found. The Hellenic Coast Guard, commanding the search for survivors, called for support. But when the Nomad, a fully equipped civil rescue boat, responded quickly, they were forced to return to port. The captain, a local fisherman, was then asked to join the search with his wooden fishing boat instead. A completely incomprehensible order given the situation. It seems that the authority’s reluctance to cooperate with NGOs outweighed the need to find survivors [3].

In the very same area in the north of Lesvos one of the biggest shipwrecks of recent times occurred on 28 October 2015 which cost 43 people their lives. Independent investigations came to the conclusion that the tragedy was a result of government policies with the intention to police and repel migrants, rather than setting out to ensure their safety [4].

We want to commemorate all the people that lost their lives trying to reach Fortress Europe. Their deaths are the consequences of a border regime based on exclusion. Every single one of those deaths is a tragedy. We stand in solidarity with their loved ones in their grief and anger. You are not forgotten. Rest in Peace and Power! 

Borders kill! For the Freedom of Movement!

Lives lost in the Aegean in 2021

- 19th January 2021: One man drowned near Lesvos, origin unknown

- 24th January 2021: Two people found dead in Turkish waters

- 19th March 2021: Three people, who were thrown in the water by the Hellenic Coast Guard as part of a brutal pushback, drowned; origin: probably Sierra Leone

- 22nd July 2021: eight people missing after a shipwreck south-east of Crete, origin: Syria and Irak

- 30th July 2021: two women and one child missing after a shipwreck near Lesvos, origin: Democratic Republic Congo

- 14th September 2021: At least two people missing after a pushback from Samos

- 26th October 2021: five found dead, two missing after shipwreck near Chios, origin: Somalia

Mare Liberum i. A.

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